Frustrated that you’re doing everything right SEO-wise but
still can’t seem to outrank competitor who uses bad SEO? Wondering why horrible websites do well on Google but optimized websites don’t quite make it to the top? Do you find yourself constantly asking why Google doesn’t just remove websites that use keyword stuffing or buy links from search and banish them forever?
You’re not alone. Many online marketers are wondering the same thing.
Luckily, John Mueller provided some answers in the latest SEO hangout. He addressed this question, which has actually been asked many times before, but this time providing a much longer answer. This is probably the most comprehensive comment John has ever given on this matter; in fact, about 7 minutes of the hangout was devoted to this topic. We’ve transcribed some of what he said below if you don’t want to watch the entire video.
So, why does it happen? Why do bad websites outrank the good ones?
To answer this question, John clarified how Google algorithms work, essentially saying that they look at a much bigger picture—sometimes ignoring elements that are bad about a website if its good elements outweigh its shortcomings.
“Our algorithms are built in a way to try to find the overall view of that website. So that can be simplified into, well, we take the average of how good a website is. It could also be that for some things, we can recognize that a website is doing something badly, and we try to ignore that.”
“I think that ‘ignoring’ option is really important and really a strong part of our algorithms because that means that even if you follow bad advice from the internet somewhere, it’s not that your website will automatically be discarded and never show in search. But rather, we recognize that oh, you’re using keyword stuffing on your pages. And we can just ignore that keyword stuffing and we’ll focus on the good parts of your page.”
John was quick to qualify his statement, saying that this option to ignore is fair to all parties.
“If you get weird advice from friends or from the internet about your website and you follow that advice, and we can recognize that you’re trying to do something sneaky there, then we’ll try to ignore that and instead focus on the good parts of your website. That’s kind of a good thing for your situation. But obviously if your competitor is doing something wrong, and we’re just ignoring that bad part, that can be frustrating.”
He goes on to recommend that ultimately, it’s best to stay in your own lane.
“Instead of focusing on the things that your competitor is doing wrong, try to find ways that you can improve your website that are kind of, more, I’d say, sustainable for the long run for your website in particular. And that could be to say, well, the competitors doing these things badly and maybe Google is ignoring those, but I can do those things really well so that when Google reevaluates my website over time it’ll see that, actually, I have a lot more things that are lined up and done well. So that’s definitely one approach.”
One other recommendation from John was to stop focusing solely on the technical aspects of SEO and looking at your website’s overall usability instead.
“Technical elements do matter to some extent, but what is also really much more important almost is the overall quality and the value that your website brings to the web. It’s very easy, as an SEO who focuses on tools and numbers to say, well, technically, my website is better.
But practically, maybe that other website is just lot better in that it provides a lot more value to users. It works really well for those users. They might be doing things like using frames on the website and doing these old-school HTML things that are not really great. But the value that they provide is just so much more than this kind of technically sleek website that maybe you have at the moment.
Focusing on the areas of improvement where you see you can surpass the competitors is important, but also making sure that you are providing something that is significantly better than them overall—not just from a technical level—but just purely from a user level.”
Finally, he suggests talking to your users and asking them how you can make your website better to cater to their needs and expectations. You can use surveys and focus studies to do this.
“Maybe find 10 to 20 users of your website and really get their input on where you can improve your website not purely from a technical level but also from a user level as well.”
There you go—the answer is clear. Even technically “bad” websites still rank well if their users find them to be useful. Google doesn’t just focus on technical aspects of a website when determining how to rank it. Instead, it looks at a much bigger picture—and it’s time you did, too.
Need help formulating a comprehensive big-picture SEO strategy? Talk to us at SEOValley.